My actual Quicksilver review was already running long (I deleted a couple paragraphs that did nothing but reinforce my point about things not being explained) so I didn’t work this in:
I haven’t read or watched anything in the Games of Throne/A Song of Ice and Fire series, but from what I gather that’s what Stephenson went for or should have been going for in Quicksilver. Several different powers vying with each other, lots of intrigue, secrecy, backstabbing, stuff like that among kings and would-be kings. Except while I expect/assume Martin lays out all the plans and actions of the various kings/queens/whatever in Game of Thrones, painstakingly detailing what every character is thinking and doing and how they impact one another, Stephenson doesn’t want to look at the big chess game between Britain, France, The Netherlands and the various kings, earls, dukes, financiers, scientists, religious figures and others fighting with or against each other.
And that’s my major complaint with Quicksilver. The full board isn’t shown, just mentions of this pawn or that rook being moved to another square, and there’s no reason for this. It doesn’t aid the story to restrict the focus so tightly, it has the opposite effect. Less is understandable because less information is given.
I imagine there’s some point in Game of Thrones along the lines of one king learning that his neighbor, who he has strained relations with, has moved troops away from his border to the border of another nation (I’m creating a hypothetical situation here). That would be a major turn of events, because it at least implies the possibility of the other nations going to war, and that could have repercussions for our hypothetical king. And what those repercussions are, how probable they are, would be explained to the reader. It wouldn’t be an offhand comment (“Oh by the way, Binky the Dark has moved his wolfriders to the border with Gumdrop Land”), it would be a point where our king now has to muse on what this could mean, possibly reassessing his own priorities or changing his own plans.
And I assume Martin presents that event with the gravity and significance it deserves, whereas Stephenson would just treat it as an offhand comment, until later on when one of his characters has lost a lot of money because it was invested in goods that couldn’t be transported through the Gumdrop Land because of war closing down the border, and we’re just being told that now, after the fact.
What should be done, in this hypothetical scenario, is that when it’s discovered Binky the Dark is moving his troops our hypothetical investor should muse over what this could mean for his financial status, possibly trying to take action to mitigate or avoid a loss on his trade goods. By time and again Stephenson doesn’t do that, he just drops a hint something’s about to happen then skips ahead to after it’s happened and tosses out the ramifications of it in passing.